Major maneuvers are launched in the West to design new generation combat drones

There are, to date, no less than 7 programs aimed at designing or integrating drones in order to extend the capabilities of combat aircraft, and this for the Western camp alone. In the United States, these programs revolve around the US Air Force's Next Generation Air Dominance and the US Navy's F/A-XX; in Europe around FCAS programs et Tempest; and in Asia around Japanese FX programs, South Korean KF-21 Boramae, as well as Australian MQ-28 Ghost Bat. All aim to design high-performance stealth combat drones, capable of evolving around and to the benefit of manned combat aircraft, so as to extend their detection, offensive and defensive capabilities. If the combat aircraft programs carry within them major national ambitions limiting the possibilities of rapprochement, these combat drones, for their part, constitute above all economic vectors capable of carrying differentiated capabilities. Therefore, it is not surprising that the design of these systems is now considered within international partnerships, including within new generation combat aircraft programs, both to lower costs only to increase its distribution, and to impose a de facto standard in the years to come.

It is in any case the initiative taken by the Secretary of the Air Force Franck Kendall, as part of the NGAD program. The latter has in fact entered into discussions with several of its closest international partners, Great Britain on the one hand, Japan and Australia on the other, in order to develop a range of new combat drones. generation compatible with NGAD, Tempest and FX programs. According to the political chief of the US Air Force, the American, Japanese and British programs of new generation combat aircraft would greatly benefit from the use of a common and standardized range of combat drones and Loyal Wingmen, without that it is a question, however, of going beyond in the technological sharing around the NGAD program which remains, like the F-22 before it, a very high technology program intended to design the best air superiority aircraft from the moment.

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Australia has been engaged in the development of a Loyal Wingman type combat drone since 2017 with the assistance of Boeing, to produce the MQ-28 Ghost Bat

For the time being, the European FCAS program which brings together France, Germany and Spain, did not initially plan to design a combat drone of this type. This aims to develop, for this type of mission, a range of airborne drones of complementary size and capacity, and designated Remote Carrier. These drones are developed within the “Effectors” pillar of the program by Airbus DS with MBDA as main partner. But things could well change, after Spain proposed to add a new pillar to the program again entrusted to Airbus DS, in order to design an autonomous heavy combat drone. For Madrid, it is a question both of giving the European program an additional capacity which seems increasingly essential in view of the efforts made elsewhere to acquire it, and of proposing an effective way out in order to allow Airbus DS to take advantage of its design capabilities for an air combat system, and thus emerge from the top of the crisis which opposed Dassault Aviation and Airbus DS around the Next Generation Fighter pillar, and which has blocked the continuation of the program for 1 year now.


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